What Is AHT? (With Importance And Steps To Improve It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Average handle time, or AHT, refers to how long a consumer speaks on the phone with a customer service agent. Businesses and those working in customer service positions can monitor this value to help ensure they promptly assist consumers. You may find it useful to learn more about this crucial parameter if you wish to work as a customer care executive. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is AHT?', share its significance and explain how to improve your personal AHT and enhance it in your role.

What Is AHT?

The answer to 'What is AHT?' is that it is the typical duration of a customer call transaction. It refers to the average time a customer spends on a call with a customer support executive for assistance with a problem involving a product or service. AHT is a key performance indicator (KPI) for businesses, as customers often want immediate responses to their enquiries or issues. It enables businesses to assess both the general effectiveness and quality of their customer service policies and the individual performance of their employees.

A low AHT typically satisfies consumer demands and enables representatives to assist many clients during a shift. Businesses measure AHT through various channels, including:

  • Email: Though email conversations can run for many days or even weeks, depending on the customer response time, measuring the AHT of such conversations can still be helpful.

  • Web chat messaging: Generally, on a company website, web chat messaging can be an excellent way for representatives to engage with clients easily and clearly.

  • Text messages: Though many corporate businesses have automated text messaging platforms, these can still be useful for determining the average time it takes for a customer to receive a response from a business after sending their first text.

  • Social media message: Social media messaging handle times may be faster because people usually check social media more frequently than other methods, such as email or normal mail.

  • Video messaging: This channel may be useful for clients who prefer spoken instructions and support, as it can be a more personal approach to responding to their enquiries.

  • In-person discussions: It can be useful to assess the length of these conversations using AHT in specific circumstances where representatives communicate with clients face-to-face repetitively.

Related: How To Manage Customer Relationships: A Complete Guide

Why Is AHT Important?

AHT is important for a better customer service experience. Customers frequently demand promptness, comfort and convenience during their discussion with a company. If a consumer has an issue with a product or service, they can call a customer support number and expect immediate and efficient assistance to address the problem. AHT demonstrates how effectively an organisation can manage a high volume of client calls, which indicates workflow, operational performance and representative effectiveness.

An organisation may attract new clients, maintain the existing ones and increase its financial performance by gathering and evaluating data like AHT. Here are some comparable metrics that businesses can use to gauge the quality of their customer service:

  • Customer satisfaction rating

  • Customer service abandonment rate (CSAT)

  • Customer retention rate

  • Resolution rate

  • Net promoter score

  • Representative response time

Related: Customer Satisfaction: How To Measure And Tips For Improvement

How To Improve AHT

Here are some measures you can take to enhance the AHT:

1. Determine a standard or goal

Establishing a standard for a proper AHT to aim for is often the first step to improving your personal AHT rating. Setting a goal is usually a good way to plan for a project and increase the likelihood that it may produce the intended results. This is because having a goal gives you direction, motivation and a benchmark to measure your progress as per your set goals. Consider selecting a benchmark, possibly based on your prior experience or call lengths. Keep in mind that you can modify the aim as you acquire additional facts to ensure that it is practical.

Related: Work Experience Letter Format (With Sample)

2. Understand the purpose of AHT

Because of the potential impact of a single long call on the rest of the data, this metric may have statistical flaws. As issues might vary in complexity, it is natural and predictable that some customer calls may be longer than others. It is better to use AHT and other numerical and qualitative assessments to provide a thorough understanding of your professional achievements.

Related: What Is An Assessment After An Interview? (With Tips)

3. Monitor your AHT over a period

To determine your AHT, it is important to find a method to assess your average handling time. Ask your manager if the organisation offers any AHT analytics software for employees. For instance, through an automatic call distribution system, your computer may already record the times of your phone calls. It is more convenient if an application allows you to view visual charts of your activity. If not, the phone may contain records of call information, like call duration and time.

Select a time frame, such as daily, weekly or monthly, to monitor your AHT for the data collection phase. Usually, the longer the period, statistically, the more accurate your results can be. Try to record all call-related times, including conversation and hold times. You can also record the time spent on post-call processing or after-call work, which may involve updating and entering data, setting up follow-up appointments and writing additional emails and messages.

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4. Calculate AHT

Add your total duration of conversation time, hold time and after-call work time together before calculating your AHT. To determine your AHT, divide the total by the number of calls you managed. Here is the formula:

Average handle time = (Total talk time + Total hold time + After-call work time) / Total number of calls

Here is what a sample calculation may look like:

Average handling time = (8,000 minutes + 2,000 minutes + 2,000 minutes) / 1200 calls

Average handling time = 10 minutes per call

5. Note the factors affecting AHT

The first step to making improvements in any area is determining the gaps in your skills and the particular areas in which you can improve. Consider keeping a notepad close to your workstation to note any issues or patterns you come across when making regular calls. To determine what circumstances raise your AHT, you can also listen to recordings of prior calls. Some organisations use customer feedback techniques that may provide further suggestions for improvement. Here are various situations that can slow down a call:

  • Technical issues: Technical problems might prolong call wait times if your computer is slow or you have trouble switching between programs.

  • Impatient or frustrated callers: You can address this problem by employing the proper de-escalation techniques and staying organised in stressful situations.

  • Unmanageable after-call workload: If you have an unmanageable amount of after-call work, think about asking your colleagues or managers for suggestions on moving this process forward more quickly.

Related: 8 Customer Support Skills (Advantages And Ways To Improve)

6. Address those issues

The next step is to address and resolve the major problems affecting your AHT. Try several strategies to reduce hold and conversation times, lessen after-call work times or increase the number of calls you can manage. For instance, you may practise routing calls to the appropriate departments to accomplish this faster during an actual conversation. You may also learn the following skills:

  • De-escalation

  • Communication

  • Endurance

  • Empathy

  • Attention to detail

Related: How To Overcome Communication Barriers: Benefits And Tips

7. Maintain customer service quality

As a customer care executive, it is important for you to consider many crucial elements to deliver exceptional customer service. Many customers expect fast responses alongside helpful service. Primarily most of them want an effective solution to their problem. Assuring this is the most suitable strategy to get positive feedback and client satisfaction. Maintaining the quality of your phone conversations is crucial, even if you want to lower your AHT. Try to ensure that customers have enough time to talk and express their concerns and be patient if they take a while.

Related: What Is Customer Service? Definition And Career Advice

8. Talk with the management, if necessary

The organisation of a company's support system can also impact AHT sometimes. If you have tried many techniques to reduce your rate without success, think about scheduling a meeting with your manager to discuss solutions. You may discuss your intention to offer high-quality service and request their suggestions on how to do it. Here are some modifications that business owners can do to improve their representative's AHT times:

  • Training resources: If you believe you can benefit from extra training, talk to your supervisor about it. They might connect you with a coach, provide you with resources like recordings of successful calls, assist you in finding personal support or let you observe a more experienced professional to learn their techniques.

  • Internal knowledge repository: Many good call centres comprise internal knowledge bases (IKBs), applications where employees may obtain all kinds of company information. Access to IKBs with simple search options, thorough scripts and instructions can help team members find solutions and receive quick assistance for complex customer issues.

  • Automation: Managers can speed up workflow and simplify employee duties by possibly automating processes. Automation can also help to increase accuracy and customer and employee satisfaction, particularly for repetitive tasks.

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